December 20, 2013
Imagine if we could turn back time. A team that has identified a new way in which cells age has also reversed the process in old mice whose bodies appear younger in several ways. The discovery has implications for understanding age-related diseases including cancers, neurodegenerative disorders and diabetes.
The research team discovered a key mechanism that keeps the body’s cells communicating. In youth, communication inside individual cells – between the cell’s “battery” known as the mitochondrion and the nucleus – is fast and frequent. But over time, this slows and ageing accelerates.
To improve communication inside cells, researchers gave mice injections containing the naturally occurring compound NMN, which raises the levels of a molecule called NAD. This molecule repairs the cells’ communication network.
The treatment effectively transformed a 60-year-old mouse into a 20-year-old on some measures, including the degree of muscle wastage, insulin resistance and inflammation.
This illustrates that you can turn back your biological age, or at least the scientists think they have found a way to do it. Scientists hope to start human trials next year. Learn more here or here.
December 18, 2013
An amazing sculpture is made by pouring molten aluminum into a fire ant colony.
December 15, 2013
I really like optical illusions.
Look at this shape. It seems to be some kind of box with a hinge facing us. But what it is doesn’t really matter. It appears that the top and bottom are different colors BUT…
Place your finger horizontally over the “hinge” part. See? The top and the bottom are exactly the same color now.
December 13, 2013
Your genome, every human’s genome, consists of a unique DNA sequence of A’s, T’s, C’s and G’s that tell your cells how to operate. Thanks to technological advances, scientists are now able to know the sequence of letters that makes up an individual genome relatively quickly and inexpensively.
December 12, 2013
A spacecraft drive-by has provided new footage of something we all take for granted – the orbit of the moon around Earth.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft has flown past our planet on its way to Jupiter, and managed to catch footage of the Moon as it performed an eternal tango with its hefty blue partner.
Juno used a gravitational slingshot manoeuvre to accelerate itself into the solar system after it was launched towards the asteroid belt in early August.
It received a boost in speed of more than 14,000 kph (about 7.3 kilometres per second), which set it on course for a July 4, 2016, rendezvous with Jupiter.
The spacecraft is equipped with an array of advanced sensors, including a special camera optimised for tracking faint stars, it was this camera that was trained towards Earth as the ship shot by, resulting in an intriguing, low-resolution glimpse of what we would look like to a visitor from afar.
Learn more here.
December 11, 2013
Small dips in the snow atop the Antarctic plateau have set new records for the coldest ever surface temperature on Earth, a distinctly chilly -93.2 °C.
The record was set on 10 August, 2010, when the surface temperature plummeted to -93.2 °C. Another pocket dropped to -93 °C on 31 July, 2013. These record lows occurred in small dips in the ice along a 1000-kilometre section of the ridge that stretches between Dome Fuji and Dome Argus, two of the summits on the East Antarctic ice sheet.
The temperatures are a few degrees colder than the previous lowest measured air temperature of -89.2 °C, set in 1983 at the Russian Vostok Research Station. Learn more here.
December 3, 2013
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you never had to worry about germs crawling around on your kitchen countertop? Well, thanks to a new discovery by Aussie scientists, that could soon be a reality. And it doesn’t require a drop of disinfectant.
It’s called black silicon. While the material itself was discovered back in the 1990s by some Harvard guys, scientists only recently stumbled across its antibacterial properties after studying the wings of cicadas and dragonflies. They discovered that nanostructures shaped like little pillars on the wings effectively shreds and kills any bacteria that tried to settle there. With spikes that are just 500 nanometers high, black silicon (pictured below) has the same property. Bacteria literally can’t land on the surface without being destroyed by the spikes.
Now for the potential downside. While useful for camera sensors and solar cells, black silicon hasn’t really been commercialised, so we don’t know how expensive it would be to produce it on a large enough scale to replace kitchen countertops across the nation. Learn more here.
December 1, 2013
Professor John Hattie, has been Professor of Education and Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia, since March 2011. He was previously Professor of Education at the University of Auckland. His research interests include performance indicators and evaluation in education, as well as creativity measurement and models of teaching and learning. He is a proponent of evidence based quantitative research methodologies on the influences on student achievement.
In this talk he presents results from his research on what really matters for the students achievement.
November 27, 2013
Why do teens—especially adolescent males—commit crimes more frequently than adults? One explanation may be that as a group, teenagers react more impulsively to threatening situations than do children or adults, likely because their brains have to work harder to rein in their behaviour.
Whether it’s driving too fast on a slick road or experimenting with drugs, teenagers have a reputation for courting danger that is often attributed to immaturity or poor decision-making. If immaturity or lack of judgment were the only problem, however, one would expect that children, whose brains are at an even earlier stage of development, would have an equal or greater penchant for risk-taking. But younger children tend to be more cautious than teenagers, suggesting that there is something unique about adolescent brain development that lures them to danger.
Brain region associated with restraint.
In an experiment to test impulsivity when faced with a threatening situation, adolescents showed significantly higher activity in a brain region called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), which is involved in top-down control of behaviour. You could think of it as the brake. It’s as if the teenage brain might need to work a little harder than others to hold that response back. This could help explain why teenage criminals are less likely to be repeat offenders, as their brains develop into adulthood, it gets easier for them to rein in their behaviour. Learn more here.